Better together: Counter terrorism conference

Strategic and Defence Studies Centre and Defence Science and Technology Group conference.
Australian Government Department of Defence

Terrorism in our region persists as a complex and chronic shared security challenge. Foreign fighters returning from conflicts in the Middle East and the phenomenon of the virtual caliphate pushes terrorism beyond geographic boundaries, posing a regional threat to Australia and Southeast Asia.

The recent Marawi crisis most alarmingly demonstrated the capacity of the Islamic State to direct local forces from offshore locations to the extent to which they could occupy a city and withstand conventional forces. However, the counter-terrorism response to Marawi demonstrated the capacity for regional cooperation and,  in the right circumstances, the power of collective response.

Yet in other circumstances - such as the Surabaya church bombings - the prospective role of the military is less clear. But such challenges point to the need for greater coordination and collaboration between police and military responses, mindful of the different mandates of police and military forces in different countries, and the important support provided by their various intelligence elements.

The Better Together conference provides an additional platform for Southeast Asian and Australian representatives to tackle the question of how regional militaries can meet the increasing challenges of helping combat terrorism in both the physical and information terrain.


Senator the Hon Marise Payne is Australia’s 53rd Minister for Defence. She was sworn in on 21 September 2015 after previously serving as the Minister for Human Services for two years. She has more than two decades of Parliamentary experience after filling a casual vacancy in 1997 to represent the people of New South Wales in the Australian Senate. During her parliamentary career, she has served as Shadow Minister for Indigenous Development and Employment, Shadow Minister for the Council of Australian Governments and Shadow Minister for Housing. She has been a member of a number of Joint and Senate committees, including 12 years on the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, including a period as Chair of its Human Rights subcommittee.

Major General (ret) Duncan Lewis, AO, DSC, CSC graduated from the Royal Military College Duntroon in 1975. A career in the military spanning 33 years followed. In 2005, Duncan joined the Australian Public Service, where he would serve in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the National Security and International Policy Group, as Australia’s inaugural National Security Adviser from 2008, and Secretary of the Department of Defence from 2011. In 2012, he was appointed Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, the European Union and NATO. And in 2014, he was appointed Director-General of Security and Head of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. 

Professor John Blaxland is Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies, Director of the ANU Southeast Asia Institute, and Head of the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales, and a US Department of Defense Minerva Research Initiative grant recipient. John was also Australia’s Defence Attaché to Thailand and Myanmar. John has extensive experience in the intelligence community including as the principal intelligence staff officer for the Australian brigade in East Timor in September 1999, as an intelligence exchange officer in Washington DC, as Director Joint Intelligence Operations (J2), at Headquarters Joint Operations Command (2006/7) and as a lead author of the three-volume history of ASIO.